On The Differences Of New England and the Bay Area

We’re entering fall now here in Northampton and I get to wake up to  temperatures around 28° that on a good day warm up to 60°. This is unlike San Francisco where the morning and afternoons are pretty much within 10° of each other.

Before I moved here I read what people didn’t like about San Francisco and oddly enough the New Yorkers always said that it was the change in temperature and after being here for six months I’m sort of…WTF?!?!

I’m adapting well, but it is a bit odd walking out to put my daughter on the school bus at 7:27am [on the nose every day] and it’s really cold compared to San Francisco, but not so bad because people understand how to heat and cool a house. I only need to be exposed to the external elements of hell for a less than a minute so I’m good. Later in the morning when I venture out we have a car which I can remotely start up and warm it up and melt the frost and ice off it and I even have built in ass warmer seats so the ride it quite comfortable compared to San Francisco on a cold day when you started your car in 48° weather and got in freezing your ass off because we don’t think about warming up the car from a distance because the gas tax in California makes it expensive to sit and let your car run without driving it, let alone all the pollution you’re putting into the air.

Well, my fair readers there are a few other things that I have learned after Labor Day that may perhaps shock you. There are changes that occur that those of you out west may be horrified by.

First off, my daughter likes a daily trip to a local chain called Friendly’s after school.  She has a thing for bacon and we go there every day even though I feel I could make it just as well at home. The price jumped $4 after Labor Day and I asked and they said, Oh, that was our Summer promotion pricing. Apparently things are cheaper in the Spring and Summer other than  Fall and Winter. In my mind you would want to make prices cheaper in Fall and Winter when it’s colder and a lot harder to get people to leave their nice warm homes than to give them a deal when it’s warmer and they’re going out of their house anyway. This isn’t just a Friendly’s thing as there are stores that the prices have increased as well. I suppose it could be because transport in the Winter is more costly because of snow, but I haven’t seen any snow yet…

There are seasonal businesses that shut down after Labor Day. Mostly these are the roadside shacks that sell ice cream or seafood that aren’t the warmest and don’t have an place to sit down inside. Luckily, I’m happy with my ice cream from a pint carton or one of the local restaurants to get my clam strips.

On the other hand, holidays are huge here. We have a lot of distance between homes here, but there are tons of people who have gone all out decorating their houses for Halloween and in talking to my neighbors there are a lot of kids who come knocking at your door. This is interesting to me since I suspect you’ll have to drive the kids or be a marathon runner to get more than a few bite sized bars, but we’ll see. I’m working myself up to take my daughter out. We’re a week away from Halloween, but now it’s hard to find anything to do with Halloween available in stores, so I guess they expected you to buy it all by now.

Yet, Christmas stuff is everywhere and this is a big area for Christmas. Not that Jesus born in a barn in the Middle East Christmas, but more of a Germanic/Americanized trees, ornaments, FOOD sort of thing. There’s way less religion here oddly enough. 

Lucky for us we’re finishing up the remodel which was easily affordable here so if we’re stuck inside for a day or two it won’t be so bad. When it’s finished I’ll have a full video to post of it, but things are not so bad here considering all my friends from the Bay Area have been telling me, It’s looks really nice, but I couldn’t deal with Winter. Honestly, Winter doesn’t suck when your community is prepared for it. We’ll be inside and doing lots of cooking and watching lots of movies…

Speaking of movies, here’s one I made of a drive through my neighborhood that’s about five minutes away from downtown Northampton. It was 37° when I shot this video, but rather pleasant in the car…

 

Visitacion Valley Greenway

IMG_7561The family happened to take a trip out to Visitacion Valley today on a quest for a DVD for my daughter and happened to arrive a few minutes before the library there opened so we decided to walk around. Once again we found a little gem in San Francisco.

I don’t know too much about this little urban park, but it runs for three blocks between houses and the beginning can be found at Leland St. and Peabody St. It was a cool little walk that while you’re in an area that’s very urban and a bit on the industrial side has very little inviting in the area. This part of VV is mostly single family homes, but you won’t even find much greenery around there other than a weed growing out of the cracks in the concrete so this was a pretty nice place for the people who live there.

As you can see from the quick shots I took there are places for people to sit and relax. It’s a nice bit of respite from all the concrete and asphalt in the area and because it’s a bit inland on the warmer side of the City the streets are a bit dirty due to a lack of rain. True you could go up a couple miles to Crocker Amazon Park, but for some of the older residents which we saw walking around and sitting in the little urban parquet that might have been too much trouble.

If you’re ever over in the area I think you should check it out. It’s not Golden Gate Park, but for those who are probably the farthest away from Golden Gate Park I think it was nice that the City gave them some nature to relax in. In the central park there’s a community garden where they’re growing vegetables and fruits. I couldn’t make out any of the plants and trees other than lettuce and a few artichokes, but since this is a warmer part of the city you could grow much more tropical produce than in other parts of the City.




The Lusty Lady Goes Down…

The Lusty LadyWell shoot. Yet another San Francisco institution is coming to an end. A few days before my birthday on September 2nd San Francisco’s first unionized strip club The Lusty Lady will close its doors for good. Being the first worker owned unionized strip club in the United States wasn’t good enough to keep it open. It’s rent has been jacked up to an unaffordable rate now so it’s time to close.

The saddest part when I read about it were some of the comments people had made such as, I went there three times or so, spent two or three quarters each time, and am really glad I did. OK well I’m no accountant, but I think it takes more than three quarters three times to keep the doors of an establishment open. I have to admit that it’s been over 20 years since I last visited The Lusty Lady [which I’m sure my wife has no problem with]. This is probably a good part of where the problem is that caused The Lusty Lady to have to close it’s doors — people weren’t coming and spending money there.

This is a problem with many San Francisco small businesses in that it’s difficult for them to compete. Everyone will probably say how much of a shame it is that The Lusty Lady is closing or any other San Francisco business that closes, but when was the last time they visited the place and actually spent money there. I’ve heard several times people say about small businesses in town that, it’s a nice place, but I don’t think I’d buy anything there. This is a part of the reason why these places end up closing and going away.

Well in the case of The Lusty Lady it was a little more than that. They’re rent way back in the dark ages of 2001 was $5,500 a month. Through a number of rent increases it had been raised to almost $17,000 a month. That’s a serious increase and when you’ve got that much money going to rent a building you don’t own it’s pretty hard to come up with money to make the building you don’t own look better — especially when the landlord doesn’t want to help you out.

It turns out the owner is Roger Forbes who owns most of the strip clubs in San Francisco and he wants to expand the Hustler club to fill the space The Lusty Lady now occupies for a couple more weeks. Oh great. Pull in more frat boys. The Lusty Lady was always a different sort of place. The girls weren’t all airbrushed perfect and blonde like you’d see in Playboy magazine, but built more like regular girls you’d see. OK, maybe regular girls with pink or purple hair, tattoos and piercings, but not all of them were like that. If nothing else The Lusty Lady reminded us that it wasn’t just centerfold models who were naked under those clothes but every woman.

The place was not in the best shape, but I’ve yet to see a strip club that was, especially if you turn the lights up [which would probably make you never go in one again]. It still holds a place in my heart of a part of San Francisco that you would have to do at least once. Too bad once wasn’t enough to keep the doors opened. As one of the girls stated, Why would someone get in their car and drive from Palo Alto or wherever, find parking, to see a naked girl when they can do it from home? Well I’ll tell you why because The Lusty Lady has LIVE nude girls, like right in front of your face. I guess that’s not enough though.

It’s going to close, but if you want to be a part of it one last time, go in, throw in a dollar, say ‘Hi’ to the ladies and give them a good send-off. Maybe Wife will let me make one last visit.

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Levi Strauss & Co.

Laser Etched Levi'sBlue jeans, denim, dungarees, Levi’s. We might call them different things, but they all started in the same place. Levi Strauss came to San Francisco to form a company in 1873 to sell dry goods from his brother’s New York company. Levi struck a deal with tailor Jacob Davis to make work pants out of a blue denim that is known today around the world as blue jeans.

Opening his business at 90 Sacramento Street in San Francisco Levi Strauss he later expanded the business to take over 63 & 65 Sacramento Street. During this time a tailor named Jacob Davis who was buying hemp cloth from Strauss to repair work pants came up with the idea of the copper rivets to reinforce the jeans. He wanted to patent the idea, but lacking money he suggested to Strauss that they go into business together. Interesting note was that Levi’s first jeans were indeed made of hemp and not denim which didn’t start until 1890 when the first pair of denim Levi’s 501 jeans were made.

Trivia Note: Levi’s 501 originally had a copper rivet right in front in the crotch where the front met the back. Unfortunately several workers at a campfire stood a little too close to the fire and warmed up the rivet enough to give them a rude awakening down there.

While modern jeans didn’t start to spread outside San Francisco and California until around 1920 they finally made their way back east around 1930 with the dude ranch craze that was popular at the time. During World War II Levi’s became the pants of the working class outfitting the thousands of people taking up arms and working for the various defense companies around the country.

It was the 50’s and 60’s that make Levi’s an American icon among the youth of the nation. The 80’s greasers with their slicked back hair had to hand roll the cuffs of the jeans tightly and perfectly to look cool while the hippies of the 60’s let it all hang out with the bell bottoms flapping in the breeze [personal note, I feel that bell bottoms were one of the best jeans ideas of all times to hide skinny calves].

Now every where you go you see Levi’s or some knock off brand just about everywhere you go. citizen’s of Russia were paying hundred of dollars if not thousands of dollars for a pair and now things have come full circle and we lucky San Franciscan’s can do so as well.

Levi’s has opened a store in San Francisco at 815 Market Street in the Old Navy store that used to occupy the space. While the 501 Jeans of the working man are still sold there and are a big seller they’re making newer types of jeans some not using denim at all. They have commuter styles, eco-friendly styles [made from recycled water bottles] and even laser etched styles for the hip fashionistas out there [tattoo your pants because skin tattoos are SO 10 minutes ago!]

After years of wearing Levi’s I had moved away from blue to black generic jeans. They were cheaper, I was fatter and they worked more or less. I actually found some 527 Levi’s slim boot cut jeans I bought the other day and I’ve fallen in love with Levi’s again. Levi’s just fit right. There is something iconic about the fading blue of the denim that I had forgotten and the slight flare below the knees [hence why they are called boot cut] hides skinny calves that the skinny jeans just accentuate. I actually feel younger and from what people have told me, I look younger in these jeans. I’m a happy man. Now to go get my jeans tattooed. Should I get the sailor’s anchor or the pin up girl on them?

The Hippies Are Coming! The Hippies Are Coming!

Outside LandsThis weekend is Outside Lands which I happened to notice that when you look back on pictures and film of the Summer of Love in Golden Gate Park there isn’t much difference.

There are a few other things you’ll see that you didn’t have in the 60’s like, corporate sponsors and better food. Less Wild Giraffe Banana Wine and more micro brews. Less granola, more artisan food. If the Hippie Movement were today it would probably look a lot like Outside Lands. Seriously, look at the picture. That’s from Outside Lands, not the Summer of Love.

I’m not sure if they realize it, but Outside Lands is just a modern day version of the Summer of Love, just compacted into a single weekend along with lots more people compacted into a single space. If you look at the people of Outside Lands you’ll see the following:

  1. People wearing tie dye
  2. Lots of pot
  3. People dressing not in tie dye, but just as equally outrageous
  4. Lots of pot
  5. Scantily clad & nekkid people
  6. Lots of pot
  7. The Grateful Dead Dance [you’ll know it when you see it]
  8. Lots of pot
  9. Flowers in their hair
  10. Lots of pot
  11. Mud

I wonder if Sir Paul McCartney will be having a bit of a flashback when he performs at Outside Lands this weekend. It definitely be a groovy time for all who are there to experience the happening. For those few who aren’t going to do be advised that it is going to be crowded and getting to the other side of the park is going to be difficult. If you have time you might want to find some of the close by convenience stores to help you stock up for the weekend. It’s nice to have a good supply of munchables and drinks to hold you out through the day and keep you from spending top dollar too often at the concert.

Luckily Muni will have more buses [which may or may not help] and there is rumor of free cab rides to and from the concert. If you’ve got a smart phone you might want to download the Sidecar or Lyft app. Something tells me that cabs will be in short supply, but to safe you some money if you use Sidecar and haven’t used it before download the app and use the promo code essentiallyeric to get $10 credit to help you out on your trip.

Me? I can walk out my door and hear the entire concert without paying a dime, but I’ll most likely be driving around helping people get to and from the show. Have fun, be good and don’t take the brown acid.

Cabrillo Playground

Cabrillo PlaygroundFinding a nice playground for your kids is a bit more difficult today. Kids need more today than the swings and slide that I used to get on what was called a playground. Thankfully there are a few new playgrounds popping up that keep this in mind and today we got to visit the newly renovated Cabrillo Playground.

The main thing with playgrounds is that they have to be fun. That’s pretty much all the kids are interested in while the parents are hoping it will be so much fun that the kids will tire themselves out so they won’t tear up the house when they get home. Well I have to say that our playground tester Rebecca didn’t hesitate when she saw the playground. Autistic children can sometimes have something that sets them off by new places, but there was no problem here.

The second she got inside she was running for the play structures and jumping and sliding around on everything. The biggest thing we noticed was that she was interested in trying everything here. Usually she just focuses on one part of a structure or finds one slide, but here it was everything she had to try out. Granted it was a weekday so it wasn’t super crowded, but there were lots of kids and all of them seemed to understand that running around and crashing into other kids wasn’t what you do in a playground. This was a good thing.

It was fun for Wife and I as well as we got some exercise chasing Rebecca around and the place overall is very nice and kept clean. I’ve often wondered about what thought people put into building playgrounds. Sand just gets everywhere and it seems like other than the occasional boy the sandbox areas are ignored by the kids [I won’t ask how the local feral cats like the sandboxes, but that’s probably part of the reason why you do see many anymore.] Then you have playgrounds shaded by trees. While that’s nice on a hot summer day for some reason they only seem to make playgrounds like that in parts of the City that are normally foggy and cold which causes a large collection of leaves and bark from the tree which break down under foot and create a nice healthy mulch. Well, it would be nice and healthy if anything was supposed to grow there, but it’s a playground, not a forest.

Thankfully, Cabrillo was well thought out since it’s in the middle of a residential block without looking like the old Russian industrial playgrounds as I used to call them. The playgrounds used to have just a depressing look about them and Cabrillo’s redo doesn’t have any of that. There are tennis courts and basketball courts that are separate from the play area along with the brilliant idea of using pavers to form hopscotch areas off to the side. I’m not sure if anyone even plays hopscotch anymore, but it just seemed like an easy addition that might make a retro comeback in the future. There’s also a concrete ping pong table that has very modern look [as opposed to Russian industrial] that I’m surprised no one ever thought of before. The net is made of punctured metal which would let you use it as a table if you were having a party there and afterwards you would just need to hose it off if you spilled anything on it. This would explain the drain holes in the ground around it. Whoever designed this did their thinking.

Around the outside of the playground which is fenced in with about a 20′ high fence are planted areas with lots of annual flowers mixed with a few perennials. It adds a nice touch and is done in such a way that kids would have to work hard to get at them. Inside planting are made up of succulents and other hard to kill plants which also just makes sense in a high traffic area.

If you have a kid, you’ll want to check this place out. The best thing is that it’s free and it’s clean. There’s nice drinking fountains and bathrooms here as well as cans out in front for people walking their dogs to deposit the waste. It’s a big plus for the neighborhood  and if you don’t mind driving to the outer Richmond it’s worth the time. Just be sure to bring some coffee and snacks as you’ll be there for awhile and you’ll have a few blocks walk to get to food and drink. You can see more in the gallery below.

The Purple Mile

The Purple MileI think you kind of have to be kind of old to remember slot cars from the 60’s and 70’s, but our own Playland at the Beach had a famous track built into the original location of Topsy’s Roost that many of us old guys who were kids back then remember.

The Sovereign 220 [The Purple Mile was it’s nickname] was to slot car racers what Mavericks is to surfers. Slot cars were sort of like hot wheels on steroids. They were bigger and had a little pin that stuck down into a slot that received electricity from a hand grip that you squeezed. The tighter you squeezed the more electricity would go to car making it go faster. There were several tracks you could buy for home, but it was never the same as the Sovereign 220. I remember going in their with a friend of mine somewhere between 1965-1969 which was probably towards the end since I would have been about seven when it closed. I remember the smell to this day. Now I know it to be the smell of ozone as the electrons were splitting the oxygen in the air and making it recombine into a not very safe gas.

The track was big. It was the largest slot car track ever built and being a small kid I could barely see the end of it so you’d sort of lose track of where your car was on the track. I can’t remember how much it cost to run your slot cars on the track, but being seven I didn’t really care about money back then. I was still having adults pay for the penny candy I was eating all day long to fuel  me up to run around like a madman.

Unfortunately slot cars were starting to be old news by the late 60’s just like Whitney’s Playland at the Beach. It was closed down and the track was sold to someone in Texas and it was sold again and probably again until it wound up being bought by a hobbyist in Ashland, Massachusetts who restored it to it’s former glory. I managed to find a video of the track as it looks and operates today which isn’t much different than it was back in the 60’s now go grab some electrical wire and a 9-volt battery to click the wires together to make sparks so you can get that same smell in your room just like the old days at the slot car track.

The Audium

The AudiumThere are truly few weird and wonderful places left in San Francisco today. Yes, I’ve talked about the relics from the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition and 1938/1940 World’s Fairs that are on display at the Musee Mechanique, but a place I had forgotten about was brought to my attention the other day — The Audium.

The original concept started in the 50’s when experimental music was in a bit of an underground heyday. Enhanced by somewhat more affordable recording technology there were lots of people who were creating music from the sounds of the world around us or Musique Concrète. These were some of the early days of electronic music as we know it today. The music as it were could be the sounds of construction, cars driving by, people talking which could put you in a place without having to go there, or it could simply be a bizarre array of sounds that you really wouldn’t know what to make of it.

The Audium would fall into a bit of the later category. The room is circular and looks a bit like a space ship on the inside. From the ceiling are 136 hanging speakers as well as built into the walls at it’s current location at 1616 Bush Street. The Audium is best experienced rather than described. With all of those speakers individual sounds can be moved around the room in a way that 5.1 Dolby Surround or even 7.1 Dolby Surround can’t replicate. After you enter and take a seat the low level lighting is lowered to complete darkness. The room isn’t really warm or cold, but everything is set up so that the main focus of the evening is on your ears and the story that the sound will play for them.

Each work is performed live by Stan Shaff every Friday and Saturday night who mixes the taped audio in a different way each time. You could probably make the analogy that Stan is like a 3D sound DJ. Call it genius or insanity, but after you’ve experienced it once you’ll have a completely different idea of what sound it. Tickets for each performance are $20 [cash only] and a limited number of tickets are available pre-show through the City Box Office. Children under 12 are not allowed as, well, it’ll probably be a bit weird for them and they’ll start asking questions which kind of defeats the purpose.

The Audium is a place that everyone should go to at least once in their life if they intend to spend any time in San Francisco. It’s just a little bit of weirdness that helps create the character of our City.

Great Highway Fixed

The New Great HighwayI’m happy to say that the road work on Great Highway from Lincoln Blvd. to Geary Blvd. is fixed. Wife and I took a drive over there this morning after the San Francisco marathon and I have to say that the road is smooth as glass now.

Well smooth as glass with sand all over it at least. That was the first thing I noticed since now that the road is black once again after being a dull gray for so many years you really notice the amount of sand that blows across it. Click on the photo to enlarge it to see for yourself. There really isn’t a fix for this except more wind to blow to sand away. I ended up having to take another trip over there this evening and found that the wind that picks up in the afternoon had done it’s job and the sand was off to the side. I suppose for now I’ll just think of the sand as a natural asphalt polisher to help keep our roads out there nice and shiny.

I’d also like to take a moment to note that I had written several times to then Mayor Gavin Newsom about repaving the street down there that it might encourage some food truck businesses and cause an over all re-awakening of the area. Well, since it’s only the street that’s been done and none of the parking areas there’s still that problem looming, but hopefully that will be added in in the near future. If you look at some old pictures of Playland when it was there I think that might have been the last time the road had a full repayment. The whole area could be nice if they could find a way to keep up the area, but they would have to start with the sand first.

At least for now you can drive your car in the area once again without having to take it in for a re-alignment afterwards.

The Cable Car Museum

Cable Car MuseumSan Francisco is known for it’s museums, but some of them don’t get noticed. San Francisco’s Cable Car Museum is one of these, even for people who were born and raised here.

If you’re from San Francisco you probably don’t ride the Cable Cars very often and just sort of take them for granted, but they have a history that is truly San Franciscan and the Cable Car Museum is the best place to learn about this. Andrew Smith Hallidae conceived of a cable driven transport system in 1869 and brought it to life in 1873 starting on Clay Street. The hills of San Francisco were just too much for the horses to pull the cars loaded with people so he came up with a way around it that has become one of the main symbols of San Francisco ever since.

The Museum itself was built in 1974 and is operated by the Friends of the Cable Car Museum as a nonprofit educational facility.

Located in the historic Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse, the museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. Downstairs is a viewing area of the large sheaves and cable line entering the building through the channel under the street.

On display are various mechanical devices such as grips, track, cable, brake mechanisms, tools, detailed models, and a large collection of historic photographs. You’ll even get a close up look at how the cables work.

The museum houses three antique cable cars from the 1870s. The Sutter Street Railway No. 46 grip car & No. 54 trailer and the only surviving car from the first cable car company, the Clay Street Hill Railroad No. 8 grip car. The museum store offers a variety of cable car memorabilia, books, clothing, cards and even genuine cable car bells! Hours for the museum are 10 am – 6 pm, April 1 thru September 30. 10 am – 5 pm, October 1 thru March 31. Open every day except New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Admission is Free. Phone: 415-474-1887